I think I recently mentioned in passing how I came to receive the gift of tongues. I guess it all came about during the summer of 1998 shortly after I was introduced to the charismatic world. But quite frankly, I couldn't find much use for it and rarely used it. There is precious little practical teaching on this gift, at least in the churches I've been in. Yes, I've heard brief exhortations to sing in tongues during worship or even to speak out (with interpretation) as God leads for corporate edification, but in the last ten years I think I've heard only one sermon on it (though I've heard brief explanations during Alpha week-ends as well). It was actually a good sermon too. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that all in all I've neglected this gift most of the time.
A while back I heard Jackie Pullinger To describe her personal experience with the gift of tongues and I could really identify with it. She never used it either until challenged by some Americans visiting her in Hong Kong many years ago. God used them to convict her of her foolishness in neglecting a gift he had given her and she promptly began speaking in tongues for 15 minutes a day though it didn't seem to do anything. It was shortly after she began doing this that she began to see incredible breakthroughs in her ministry. (You can listen to her speaking or check out her book Chasing the Dragon to get a more detailed and accurate account.) This has always stuck in my mind and it has served to remind me that if I've been given a gift, I need to use it!
So over the past few years I've slowly begun to just pray in tongues sometimes, whether I feel it accomplishes anything or not. Recently thought, I've really been thankful for it. I am now happy to report that I'm actually experiencing the reality of "...The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself..." (I Cor. 14:4) Though I'm not using it every day, I'm using it far more regularly, and particularly in times of intercession, when my words seem to fall short, and also in times of need, such as in temptation, spiritual attack, etc... Of course I have to give an illustration.
The other day I was having a somewhat stressful day. Actually, most of my days are 'somewhat stressful'! Our two-year-old has been removing dirty diapers lately, along with all of his other usual disasters in every room of the house. And we are desperately trying to get our house in order so we can put it on the market. Well, this day I had already spent more than 2 hours trying to get this kid to take his nap. He can now climb out of his crib and cannot tell you how many times I disciplined him and put him back. Then my husband got home and commented on one of the lesser disasters I hadn't had time to clean up yet. I got angry, it wasn't pretty, I left the house for a couple of hours feeling lots of guilt and condemnation. I could recognize spiritual attack in the middle of it all as well, but just couldn't seem to find my way to the throne of grace. I went back home but nothing was resolved and I left again feeling depressed and hopeless. When I got home again, it was still terrible. I wouldn't even let Aaron pray for me.
Finally as I ran a bath it occurred to me that I could pray in tongues. I felt so relieved as soon as this thought came to me (thanks Holy Spirit!) and I immediately began praying and God's presence came back! Love and mercy came flooding over me and all the anger, bitterness, hopelessness, unforgiveness, I had been giving in to just gave way and was gone. You see, I had repented of my sin, but the enemy was just accusing me and telling me I couldn't have an uninterrupted relationship with my Father. I had to wait and suffer a bit you know. But when I started praying in the Spirit the power of the enemy was broken somehow.
I'm really beginning to value this 'lesser of gifts'. I think I've really been ashamed of it for a long time. My background in the Wesleyan Church, while good in so many ways, perhaps left me with this sense. They affirm every gift except tongues as a prayer language, which is viewed as divisive (which I'm sure can be true). I've even encountered a strange vehemence and hatred towards tongues from some people, some of whom I highly admire and respect. Growing up it was common to hear my parents and others saying things like "yes, they speak in tongues but you would never know it,they are so godly they would never talk about it". So I guess I have thought it's wrong to admit to having this gift! But Paul didn't seem to mind claiming to have it, and I've never heard of anyone keeping any other gift a secret (actually it sounds a bit like burying things...) So instead of being ashamed, I'm going to thank God that I'm speaking in tongues more and more and encourage all of you to do the same if you have this gift. And if you don't, than eagerly seek it along with the greater gifts!